G20 inclusion of African Union cited as historic for Global South

The African Union became the second regional grouping after the EU to be admitted to the Group of 20, as a full permanent member.

Aparajit Chakraborty

Aparajit Chakraborty

China Daily


African Union (AU) Chairperson Azali Assoumani hugs Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the Union became permanent member of the G20 in New Delhi. PHOTO: PMO/THE STATESMAN/ANN

September 11, 2023

NEW DELHI – The inclusion of the African Union in the Group of 20 is a historic expansion of the economic bloc, with the Global South voice now carrying more weight, experts said.

The AU has been granted permanent membership to the G20, India announced on Saturday.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited the president of the 55-member African Union or AU to take a seat at the table among permanent members at the opening of the two-day summit on Saturday morning, stating there was consensus among existing members to approve the move.

The African Union became the second regional grouping after the EU to be admitted to the Group of 20 leading industrialized and developing nations as a full permanent member, Modi said in G20 leaders’ summit in New Delhi.

Reacting to the inclusion of African Union in the G20, Vincent Magwenya, spokesperson to South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, said, “India has done extremely well not only with respect to the organization of the summit but with respect to focusing this summit on including the voice of the Global South, and including smaller countries that were often excluded from such forums. So, we are very delighted at this development that AU is now part of the G20.”

“The collective efforts of both India and China have played [a role] in ensuring that you have a summit of this nature, that is inclusive. It is the same level of efforts and cooperation that we saw in the lead-up to the BRICS summit with respect to a number of issues that had to be managed to build enough to the Summit,” Magwenya added.

ALSO READ: G20 agrees to grant permanent membership to African Union

“We think it augurs very well with respect to how the global financial architecture gets shaped as well as how the global sort of governance processes are approached. They will be approached now with the inclusion of the African continent, which remains an integral part of the global economy. It was always a miss that you could have such forums being hosted and conducted at the exclusion of a continent of more than 1.4 billion people,” he said.

Amid the round of applause from G20 delegates, Azali Assoumani, the current AU president and also president of the Comoros, was escorted by Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar to a seat, and Modi rose to hug him.

The inclusion of the AU will mark the bloc’s first growth since it was created in 1999 in response to an Asian financial crisis and now includes the European Union and the 19 largest economies in the globe.

“Honored to welcome the African Union as a permanent member of the G20 Family. This will strengthen the G20 and also strengthen the voice of the Global South,” said a message on Modi’s official account on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

ALSO READ: G20 leaders vow commitment to growth, development goals

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa is also attending the G20 Summit which is underway now in Bharat Mandapam at Pragati Maidan.

China and India were most vocal in their attempts and the run up to get AU into the G20.

“China is the first country to explicitly voice support for the AU’s accession to G20,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Thursday.

Former veteran diplomat and former Indian High Commissioner to South Africa, Virendra Gupta said, “It is a very good development. The forum gets more representatives. With the inclusion of AU, voice of global south will get much more strengthened. If you want any organization to grow, it should have adequate representation,”

The inclusion of the AU is the way of future growth of G20, said the former veteran diplomat.

READ MORE: Indian capital gears up to host G20 summit amid tight security

“The African Continent can no longer be ignored. Everyone is doing business with them. It is also about being inclusive. Excluding AU while the EU is included does not make political sense in today’s time and age,” said Archana Upadhyay, a Professor of School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Most importantly, the Global South is a force to reckon with. The inclusion of the AU is the recognition of this reality. The emerging economies have big economic and political clout, Upadhyay added.

It could promote development of African nations and will increase global engagement with the union to achieve sustainable development goals, said Haans Freddy, a professor in the department of political science at Madras Christian College in Chennai, India.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

scroll to top